Bailey

The John Greyson-Dave Wall collaboration Fig Trees pays homage to South African protest leader Zackie Achmat.
Operatic Activism by Cameron Bailey

NOW MAGAZINE, NOV 13

FIG TREES Rating: NNNN

This spring The New Yorker called AIDS activist Zackie Achmat the most important protest leader in South Africa since Nelson Mandela. Now video artist John Greyson and musician Dave Wall have rendered Achmat operatic in a stunning, ambitious video installation. Fig Trees has Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson dreaming up an opera about Achmat. The combination of Greyson’s video and Wall’s music is mournful and gorgeous, but what astounds is the conceptual rigour.

Fig Trees is designed with mind-bending formalist complexity, feeding Achmat’s work for fair pharmaceuticals through palindromes, translation machines and multiple screens. The whole thing is installed in six rooms at both the Centennial and Gairloch locations of the Oakville Galleries.

On opening night, Tuesday (November 18), a bus leaves the Paul Petro gallery (980 Queen West) for Oakville – reserve at oakgalleries@idirect.com. (On view November 18-January 25, 2004, Oakville Galleries)